- Chris ORourke
A Blasphemous Rumour
In Dutch playwright, Lot Vekemans’ “Judas,” receiving its Irish premiere, as well as its first performance in English translation at the Viking Theatre, Judas Iscariot is putting on a one-man show. Biblical betrayer for thirty pieces of silver, Judas wants to set the story straight. For when it comes to the man and his motives, you don’t know all you think you know. Unfortunately, by the time he exits stage right you still don’t know very much more about either the man or his motives. At least nothing you’d want to hang your hat on. If hugely popular throughout Europe, Vekemans’ “Judas” still proves to be something of a problematic script. One that travels the surface but rarely the depths, in a lacklustre production saved only by a hugely invested performance.
For someone who’s been dead for over two millennia, Judas appears to have aged remarkably well. Unfortunately, he doesn’t appear to have discovered anything of real interest, or novelty, during the past two thousand years, having no real ground breaking revelations to disclose. Warnings for the audience to manage their expectations prove to be astute, if not for the reasons Judas would have us believe. Yet he does get off to something of a promising start. A meta-theatrical deconstructing of the space and performance opens up avenues and possibilities. Further deconstructions of narrative and biblical myth suggest even more grounds for engagement. Except, once it’s been deconstructed, what’s offered in its stead is often dramatically and ideologically dull, lacking in theological, theatrical, or biblical depth. Indeed, with Judas both loving and hating himself, both rejecting and coming to terms with himself, it soon becomes confusing as to what exactly he wants. The same when it comes to the He who was both his Master and his friend. Something we know only because Judas tells us so, and tell us without really backing it up and bringing it home. In the end, with motives and ideas far too lightweight, for events made far less interesting, “Judas” provides no real insight, offering rehashed clichés passed off as ideas of substance. Ideas which barely rise to the level of a blasphemous rumour.
In opting not to employ raised or inflected voices, showing no impassioned moments, nor expressions of a tortured soul, director Elyn Friedrichs keeps everything minimal and low key. Moving at his steady, undeviating pace, “Judas” becomes matter of fact, allowing the words to try carry the burden of conviction, which alas, they cannot do. Instead, it speaks to the talent of Andrew Murray as the eponymous Judas that he manages to make this often dullish character both human and engaging. Yet Judas, like his thoughts and tales, is ultimately far less relatable or interesting than he thinks he is. Even so, the uncredited translator ensures Vekemans problematic script flows easily in English.
The countless conspiracies that have surrounded Judas Iscariot over the centuries have suggested endless ways of viewing and engaging with this complex, biblical character. In this regard, Vekemans reimagined “Judas” falls short in comparison to most. It might try to highlight how we idolize heroes and vilify villains without really asking too many questions, but it does so in a less than convincing fashion. Maybe “Judas” might be able to convince himself he’s someone special with something special to say. Convincing everyone else might prove to be more difficult.
“Judas” by Lot Vekemans, runs at The Viking Theatre until November 25th
For more information, visit The Viking Theatre.